Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chicken Abroad... Fairly Interesting

Maria made me a bumper sticker. It is the only bumper sticker I have ever put on a vehicle.

I suspected that my earache would muddle my brain, and it has is. My brain is muddled. I cannot hear and I feel like I have a dense accumulation of cotton candy in the cavern between my ears. I have seen a doctor and he did look in the ear, and he did pause and look again and then he prescribed an arsenal of pills, and drops, and after drops to counteract the gut bomb antibiotic missiles. I have been stoic and brave... no moaning, no writhing, no pathetic displays of my weak morale. But I have also been fuzzy and withdrawn, detached and very sleepy. I have not answered the phone or replied to messages, because it's too hard and frustrating trying to understand spoken language and make coherent replies. Forgive me for not being fully present.

And forgive me for semi-announcing something that sounded big and amazing, when it is really more fairly interesting and kind of silly.

Here's the deal: Geoff and I have planned to go to Europe since about 1983. It's one of those things we have postponed and delayed and fumbled and put off for later. But no more. We have passports gasp! We have cute little passport holders classy! We have maps and guide books clever! We have gumption finally!

Don't tell Geoff, but I think I may have been the single greatest obstacle to our European adventures, because I am Chicken. I am also frugal, and pragmatic, but those may be fancy talk for Chicken. Bok-bok-bok-bok-bok... I do not like to fly. Not a bit. I do not like to fall from the sky and sit in heaven and imagine my family having to clean my messes and miss me, and not be able to enjoy one more Christmas or planting another vegetable garden. I may have control issues too. Just saying.

I like my nest. I like my Odyssey, which is an extension of my nest. I love my bed and my comfy quilts, and the familiar sight of my children reading, playing, eating, smiling and singing. I love my husband... I may not see him often, but he's close. I have a vague and lingering suspicion that the world is flat. Don't laugh. Until I get to a spot and see it for myself, I get an uneasy feeling that it's not all together solid and there exists a possibility that I could fall off. My nest, the familiar range of my world, is comforting and good, and like any good hen, when the sun goes down, I want to return to my home.

OKay. Just as an exercise, try thinking of a fear or concern that you shelter deep inside, however unfounded or embarrassing, and then write down the fear, however irrational or silly. It's illuminating.

Geoff and I have planned to go to Europe since about 1983, and we are going to make the trip this summer! We are going as a family. We are going for... uh, I am not sure how long we'll stay or where we will stay or whether we will need rail passes. In fact, there is a lot we do not know, in spite of our guide books and the Internet. And because we don't know much, Geoff decided we need an advance party, a scout. And he has decided that I deserve the honor of being the European Advance Party.

I am the EAP. I pronounce it Eeep!... like a scared mouse or a nervous Chicken. I know. Some of you are thinking that 'this is an amazing opportunity, a wonderful gift, a chance of a lifetime.' And I know that I will be profoundly affected and thoroughly mesmerized, that I will love my adventure abroad... eventually. Right now I feel a bit anxious, uneasy and nervous.

There are a lot of wonderful stories about individuals who have left their comfort zone to discover new lands and new people, and they share marvelous tales about exotic sights and renewed spirits, about art and history and winding roads into uncharted territory. I don't know of many stories about a reluctant Chicken, traveling with advance reservations (no pun intended) and a good cell phone... a Chicken, who's first inclination is to stay home and bake lemon bars, and quilt. So, even though I may sound silly or as though I do not appreciate this opportunity, I am going to tell it like it is: I am a reluctant and nervous Chicken Abroad, sent as a scout to learn the ins and outs of traipsing through Europe with 4 children. I hope you find this more amusing than annoying. I am not a total 'stick in the mud.' Really, discussing my fears and admitting my homey nature, helps me, so that when I go finally do go forth I will be prepared and receptive... it's my process.

Non-Chickens know where they want to go. The AAA lady says she has a "before I die list." She said it's about places she wants to see, things she wants to do, and then she looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to finally decide where my flight should land. Now, partly, my noncommittalness was due to the earache; it really messes with my decisiveness and ability to focus. But I also have no particular must see destinations in my mind or heart. I sat in front of the maps and kind of weighed the pros and cons of this place and that, of late winter travel, and direct-non-stop flights, and even after pouring over books and maps at home, I didn't feel any closer to a decision sitting in front of the patient travel agent. Working from the ground up, we put together a plan that goes something like this...

I am flying to Barcelona. I like saying Barcelona, the soft "B," slightly dragging the c, and I like that it is close to another country, because Geoff wants me to visit two countries, for variety. From Barcelona, I am taking a train to Avignon. Avignon is also fun to pronounce, and I chose it because 1. My mom went their and she brought me table cloths from Provence and 2. I like to sing "Sur le Pont d'Avignon, l'on y danse, l'on y danse..." Then it's back to Barcelona, where I want to walk along Las Ramblas and buy my lunch in the Mercat de la Boquería. I squeezed in a day trip, also by train, south to Castellón de la Plana.

There it is. My tickets are purchased, and all I need now are comfortable shoes. Maybe a phrase book too. I went online to learn something, beside the words to a children's song, about France and Avignon. I discovered a website for a great looking restaurant and got perky about the prospect of dining there, so I clicked on the menu... I can speak a fair amount of Spanish, so I optimistically (read: thoughtlessly) believed that another Romance language could not be too hard to decipher... lol. There was not a phrase or word or vowel that I could make sense of and in a moment of simultaneous enlightenment and ignorance I blurted: Cr@p! It's like a foreign language! K... time to brush up on my French. Note... I am mentioning that I speak "some" Español, but I am arriving in a region where Catalan is spoken, which is like, totally like a foreign language!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

We're Still Here

Yeesh. This Blog. So neglected. So feh. All my heated, fiery, posts are about housing, bailouts and me being down right despondent. Instead of ranting and getting fretful tears all over my keyboard, I have been... I've... uh... Yeah. A lot of "uh." Not pretty.

But. Yes, I am interjecting my big butt. But I have something quite new up my sleeve. Actually it was up Geoff's sleeve, and the second hardest part about his post-crunch mode re-entry phase, is his let's do something wild and extreme phase. Ladies and gentlemen, we are entering the "wild and extreme phase," though technically we have not fully emerged from "post-crunch mode re-entry phase." Confused? Yes, I am being obtuse. I do not apologize. Consider, you are only reading about this; I am actually living it.

Where was I?

Ah, yes... I am up to something and I am calling it Chicken Abroad. In the next several weeks, and probably for the rest of my life, I will be posting about travel. World travel. Chickenblog is going abroad. World travel has been in the plan since the early 80's and it looks like this is the year we are going to make it happen, and it's not just because we still can't find a house to buy and we feel utterly depressed and disgusted and want to runaway from pain and anguish and make rash decisions and spend all of our hard earned savings in a frenzy of fancy living.


Geoff has a unique plan, and I will be sharing it soon. In fact I have so much to share that I could fill a book. Chicken Abroad will be all about my fear of flying, and reluctance to try Facebook be out in the big public eye, in person. It will be about feeling chicken and yet daring to leave my nest to scratch the surface of the earth and see what I can find.

First, I need to see the doctor about my ear. I have a doozy of an earache, and either I have been sharing deep thoughts and brilliance or the infection has spread to the vital organ between my ears and I am as fuzzy, pained and incoherent as I feel.